Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daley does Harvard; not the avenue

Perhaps it is too easy of a joke to make, so much so that we all ought to groan at its corniness.
Harvard won't get any Daley vs. Rahm ...

Yet I can’t help but think that a generation of politically-aware Chicagoans thought that the only “Harvard” that Richard M. Daley would ever be acquainted with was the avenue that runs through several impoverished neighborhoods on the South Side.

WHEN PAIRED UP with Princeton and Yale avenues (all of which are just west of Wentworth Avenue and the Dan Ryan Expressway), they make up the “Ivy League” portion of Chicago.

A series of streets that likely were given those names long ago because someone ran out of people to honor.

Not that Daley himself would know Harvard Avenue first-hand. For if one follows it far-enough north to where it would cut into the Armour Square neighborhood (next to Daley’s ancestral home of Bridgeport), the street is known as Shields Avenue.

And every Sout’ Sider knows what has always existed at 35th and Shields – first, Comiskey Park and now, U.S. Cellular Field (although Princeton Avenue does exist in Armour Square and would cut right through right field into third base if not for the stadium’s presence).

IN SHORT, THE idea of “Daley” and “Harvard” in the same sentence isn’t exactly the most natural of juxtapositions. Although the two were legitimately merged in the news this week when Harvard University officials let it be known that Daley is going to be a participant in assorted programs to take place later this month at the Cambridge, Mass., campus.

It’s all part of the effort to re-cast the Daley image from the one of toughened political thug to wise political observer – one whose observations and thoughts are worthy of inclusion at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
... rhetoric during upcoming seminars

That is the specific place where Daley will spend the final week of November meeting with student groups and participating in public policy classes.

I only wonder if the  academic types of Harvard Yard are going to be able to comprehend Daley’s unique brand of Sout’ Side-ese. For Daley’s speaking pattern isn’t so much blunt as it is convoluted. It takes time for one to get the hang of listening to him to figure out exactly what he means.

(WHICH MEANS THERE is some logic to the old saying, “Write what he means, not what he says” that applied to Daley’s father, the late Mayor Richard J. But that is a subject for another commentary).

I couldn’t help but giggle at the reports of Daley’s time to be spent at Harvard when one professor hinted that Daley himself might give his opinions about city government and where current Mayor Rahm Emanuel might be screwing things up.

Fat chance. I don’t see Daley suddenly getting loose lips at Harvard (although I could see him loosening up a bit if he were speaking to a group of South Siders along Harvard Avenue).

What the academics are going to get is a lot of political gobbledygook, which has some value in and of itself in terms of teaching those academics just how real-life politicians try to cover up their actions with misdirection and confusion.

EVEN WHEN EMANUEL tries to imply that he has to make changes to fix a Daley screw-up, he always goes out of his way to find someone else to blame, or else just place the blame on a nameless entity. I don’t expect Daley to trash Emanuel any more than Emanuel trashes Daley.

But all of this comes down to Daley’s post-political perception of himself – where he already is a “distinguished senior fellow” at the University of Chicago, in addition to joining the law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman (I suppose it is a good thing that Daley passed the bar exam on his third try all those years ago), is cooperating with an author who is writing his biography, and is setting himself up with a speaker’s bureau so that people will pay him significant amounts of money to hear that brand of rhetoric known as “Daley-speak.”

But it was that type of talk that played along Harvard Avenue (as well as Yale and Princeton avenues). Now, we’re going to find out how intelligent those Ivy League academics truly are.

If they can understand Daley, they can comprehend anyone.


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